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Ex-Trump aide Manafort pleads not guilty to New York charges

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Ex-Trump aide Manafort pleads not guilty to New York charges
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, is escorted out of court after his arraignment in New York Supreme Court in New York, U.S., June 27, 2019. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz   -   Copyright  EDUARDO MUNOZ(Reuters)
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By Nathan Layne and Karen Freifeld

(Reuters) – Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was convicted of numerous federal crimes last year, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to residential mortgage fraud and other New York state charges, setting the stage for a showdown over whether those charges amount to double jeopardy.

Wearing blue prison garb, Manafort, 70, entered his plea before Justice Maxwell Wiley of the state Supreme Court in Manhattan to the 16 felony count indictment announced in March by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.

The charges include mortgage fraud, conspiracy and falsifying records related to Manafort’s efforts to obtain millions of dollars in loans on New York properties between 2015 and 2017.

Manafort had chaired U.S. President Donald Trump’s White House campaign for three months until August 2016.

Todd Blanche, a lawyer for Manafort, said he planned to seek a dismissal of the indictment on double jeopardy grounds.

The charges centred on mortgage applications to two banks that were also at issue in Manafort’s federal trial.

Under New York law, a person can be prosecuted twice for the same act only in specific circumstances, including when at least one element of the crimes is distinct and the statutes address “very different kinds of harm or evil.”

Vance’s office will likely argue an exception to New York’s double jeopardy protections is warranted in Manafort’s case.

Wiley scheduled Manafort’s next court appearance for Oct. 9, and Manafort will remain in federal custody.

Walking with a slight limp, Manafort did not respond to someone who shouted “traitor” from the hallway as he entered the courtroom. Upon leaving, Manafort cracked a smile.

He is serving a 7-1/2-year sentence for tax fraud, bank fraud and other charges stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s federal investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Federal prosecutors accused him of hiding $16 million from U.S. tax authorities that he earned as a consultant for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine and then lying to banks to obtain loans to maintain a luxurious lifestyle.

The New York charges are widely viewed as an attempt to ensure that Manafort serves significant prison time even if Trump pardons him, which the president has not ruled out.

Trump can pardon people for federal crimes, but not state crimes. Manafort faces up to 25 years in prison in New York on the top state charges.

The New York case has attracted the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice, which this month decided to keep Manafort in federal custody because of concern for his health and safety.

That intervention, which legal experts said was unusual and raised concerns of special treatment, ensured that Manafort would not move to New York’s Rikers Island jail pending trial.

Manafort was moved to a federal facility in Manhattan on June 13, after having been housed at a low-security federal prison in Pennsylvania.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne and Karen Freifeld in New York; editing by David Gregorio and Noeleen Walder)

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